It’s been years since I’ve turned on World of Warcraft’s War Mode, and I never expected I’d ever do so again. Even with its juicy XP bonus, I had no patience for the way people act when you’re allowed to fight each other out in the world. The fantasy of running into a player from the opposing faction and dueling each other as soldiers in an endless, globe-spanning war seems inviting, but the reality is that turning on War Mode invites nothing but trolls and grief. I just want to do my quests and progress through the campaign without some over-leveled prick slaying the quest NPC before I can talk to them, or camping outside Orgrimmar to farm new players, or follow me around the zone killing me over and over just because they’re bored. For every one memorable encounter I’ve had with World PvP, I’ve had a dozen that made me want to cancel my sub and uninstall the game.
I never even considered turning War Mode on when I started Dragonflight, and I practically forgot it existed until I hit level 70, finished the campaign, and encountered my first Wild Arcana world quest. Wild Arcana is a special PvP zone-within-a-zone where Horde and Alliance players can fight each other while collecting buffs and earning powerful rewards. While I was initially frustrated by the introduction of PvP to the normal world quest rotation, I was surprised to discover what a positive effect dragon riding has had on world PvP. Not only are dogfights and high-speed chases a lot of fun, buy dragonriding also eliminates much of the incentive to be toxic.
Traditionally, one of the most frustrating things about War Mode has always been getting ganked. When a group of rogues and Demon Hunter jump on you while you’re minding your own business, it's an entirely helpless situation. When they continue to do it over and over, you might as well give up, log off, and try to finish your quests later.
A lot of the people that do this are trolls, but WoW has also incentivized this way of engaging in PvP. If you’re in a flying zone, you have to ambush players and kill them as quickly as possible so they don’t escape, get on their mount, and hover in the air just out of reach. With regular flying mounts you can do this indefinitely, so the only way to secure kills is to be a little toxic, run with a group, and ambush people.
Dragonriding completely eliminates the need to gank players because you cannot simply get on your mount and hang in the air until they go away. If your target gets away and mounts up, you can follow them until they inevitably land again. If they try to shake you in the air, the fight quickly turns into a thrilling Top Gun-style chase sequence as both dragon riders show off their best techniques.
There’s a tremendous amount of skill involved in dragonriding, and a lot of it never really gets put to the test until you’re fighting other players. A Whirling Surge can be used to knock riders off of their dragon, but the high Vigor cost can result in quickly losing momentum if you miss, allowing your prey to escape. Additional talents can make you more effective, like Dragonrider’s Initiative, that lets you create a shockwave where you land. If you can manage to drop down right on top of your opponent you can give yourself a big advantage.
It’s not quite as involved or satisfying as the highly-underrated dragon fighting game Century: Age of Ashes, but dragonriding adds a significant layer of complexity to PvP while suppressing the need to grief in order to secure kills. There will always be trolls in WoW, but the fun factor of dragonriding is a great incentive for lawful play.
There are other great incentives too. Aside from world quests, there are new PvP exclusive crafting materials and a new PvP currency called bloody tokens which can be used to buy gear that starts at level 366, which is great for getting a head start on the raid and mythic dungeons. You can only get bloody tokens if War Mode is on, which means I’m about to break a decade-long streak and join the PvPers on the battlefield, and in the sky.
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